Linda Klösel / Eikon Heft 73 / ISBN 978-3-902250-61-2

On the Border Separating Intentions from Reality

A public space is defined by its democratic principle. An intervention can reveal differences and structurally defining mechanisms. If we visit a gallery opening, we find ourselves in a space that is socially and culturally coded, that is at least in part public, and that includes certain target groups. In the midst of objects charged with an economic as well as an ideal value, we move and behave according to ritualized patters of communication and conform to rehearsed stereotypes. On occasion, now it’s possible to encounter unexpectedly a person wearing dark clothing, standing motionlessly in an exaggeratedly upright posture. If we follow the individual’s rigid gaze, we can see it leads towards another with the same attitude is staring at another, and so on. A sense of disease begins to spread. What is this? Is it part of the exhibition? An art action? By whom? It wasn’t even announced. What reaction is being expected of me? Manfred Grübl’s Personal Installations confront us with a situation that spontaneously demands an action and a response without establishing consent or rejection ahead of time. As soon as the exhibition spaces fill with people, the performers instructed by the artist take their positions and form a motionless, but charged space of events that robs our attention from the preconceived focus. Precisely their becoming rigid in the moving mass, their behavior contrary to the usual codes presents to us our efforts to adapt to the supposedly given rules and conventions. The actual structure of this carefully conceived choreography proves ever clearer as the opening continues. Only as the space slowly empties do we recognize the clearly structured form as an orthogonal system, as a stable architecture within a changing crowd.
Grübl’s Personal Installations subvert the conditions of participation in the established art business. He chooses for this performance quite prominent exhibition institutions and galleries like London’s Saatchi Gallery, Secession in Vienna, or most recently Galerie Sprüth Magers in Berlin, but he was not invited by any of these institutions. The artist simply demands his democratic right to comment and to present himself uninvited in a public space. But his actions are not merely disturbances that more or less consciously provoke negative reactions of the organizers and exhibiting artists, but an act of artistic autonomy and self-assertion. He grants himself permission to participate in the art system whose mechanisms of exclusion are often far too difficult to understand, and in so doing reveals their defining composition. Institutional exhibitions are events where economically based selection techniques, value increasing mechanisms, and social conventions of the classical art business are manifest. Its elitist exclusive character is not only due to the protagonists involved, but the audience itself. Do the throngs of visitors of a media marketed major events of the art business attest to a real interest in art, or is at issue here rather a symbolic search for identity, that follows the need to have been there too? At the exhibition Kidnapped, Manfred Grübl leads his public through a system of locks into the gallery space. The visitor has to walk through three doors that automatically close and can no longer be opened by the visitor from the inside. Only at the end of the event is the visitor again freed from this involuntary imprisonment. The construction thus forms a “threshold” that separates the social exterior from the interior of the art system. It seems as if a level of reality has to be chosen, for once the one level is left behind, you find yourself caught in the next. Manfred Grübl quietly and precisely analyzes the relationships
between the audience, artist, and an art business that as part of the world of finance capital has to face the debate of how it will approach the discrepancy between the desire to mediate critical discourses and the reality of increasing economization. His actions cannot be read as a purely subversive opposition, but pose the question of the line separating participatory intervention from opportunistic complicity.